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What lies beneath: Morrigan's Bee by Gabhann Dunne

Morrigan's Bee by Gabhann Dunne

Oil on board courtesy the Molesworth Gallery

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Morrigan's Bee by Gabhann Dunne

Morrigan's Bee by Gabhann Dunne

Morrigan's Bee by Gabhann Dunne

Father and daughter came upon a bedraggled, exhausted bee sheltering on a car tyre. They rescued it, made it a paper nest and fed it honey and water, and its remarkable, unexpected recovery meant that it buzzed off a few days later - but not before artist Gabhann Dunne and his daughter Morrigan painted and drew it.

Dunne grew up in Celbridge, and "as a child, I used to venture downstairs before anyone else was awake. I'd leaf through a book on Hieronymus Bosch and other fantastical painters. Swimming in the Liffey every day, in summer, gave me a connection to the natural world and a passion for the water that's so important to the work.

"My grandfather Darragh would take us for walks in Cavan and point out various plants and animals."

Dunne now knows the 20 different kinds of bees in Ireland. "I'd love people to know about Ireland's wild bees, wild bees such as bumble, solitary and masonry bees."

Morrigan's Bee is oil on board, Dunne's favourite medium: "It really suits small work and unlike canvas it allows for a very fast brush stroke."

And it's a collaborative painting. Morrigan drew her bee, a glass, the nest, and Dunne incorporated this into the work. It appears faintly, to the bee's left as if it's what the bee has now escaped. "When I showed Morrigan the finished piece she hit the roof. I had put her drawing in upside down, and to keep her happy, I had to repaint the piece". He uses photographs "but if the painting becomes too realistic it gets dumped".

Dunne's work celebrates an endangered world. That's "very important and informs all the stories behind the work". He hopes viewers will take away feelings of "empathy and responsibility".

Believing that art can be taught at all levels, at DIT and NCAD his work contained "an absolute love of colour but it was more comic and badly painted. And even if people don't paint anything else afterwards they learn to look." Later on, "I went for nursing didn't get in and returned to art having failed to be a nurse!" But there he is now nursing a bee back to health.

A typical Dunne day is "get the kids to school and head straight to the studio. I paint. Fail a lot. Succeed occasionally. I collect the kids. Cook a dinner. And finally read - Alice Oswald, Ted Hughes and Seamus Heaney are always present - and unwind with my wife Tanya".

Carol Ann Duffy couldn't see "bees/ without imagining music scored/ on the air" and in Morrigan's Bee the bee is making its music. It's on its way.

www.gabhanndunne.ie Insta: @gabhanndunne

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